When the curtain fell on the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) Open finals held April 20, two outstanding horse and rider team stood as co-champions.
It started with draw 25 — Jason Vanlandingham and 4-year-old reigning National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Level 4 Open Champion A Vintage Smoke. The talented duo marked a 227.5, which spectators knew would be tough to beat as only 11 horses were left to compete.
Enter Nathan Piper and Patriot, another 4-year-old, who rode into the Coliseum Arena merely a few draws later. As the run progressed, it was clear the score would be a big one, and when another 227.5 was announced, the chatter started. Would the two teams run off for the big prize, or would they agree to tie?
When the final horse had left the arena, the announcer broke the news that, for the first time in the NRBC’s history, there would be Level 4 Open Co-Champions, with each taking home $63,000.
Prizes included a year’s use of a custom trailer from Twin Cities Trailer Sales/Twin Cities South and Gary Raak, a saddle sponsored by Kyle Tack, an SPH saddle pad, boots from Anderson Bean, a custom vest from Palmer Performance Horses and Glycoguard Paste, product from Santa Cruz Biotechnology and Back On Track, and numerous prizes from the NRBC.
Piper is an NRBC veteran, but the Level 4 Open Championship has been elusive. Patriot proved to be a game changer.
“I think I’m still in shock. Before I ran in, I felt pretty good about it. This horse is such a saint and is so good. He comes out every day and does his job,” Piper said. “He gives me a lot of confidence because he’s pretty predictable, and he was getting better with every ride.”
Pattern 10 provides a great opportunity to make a good first impression with the run-in to a sliding stop.
“When I ran in, I felt him drop his neck, and I knew he was in a good spot mentally. He gave me it all,” Piper said.
Piper trains out of Toyon Ranch, who raised the young stallion by Smart Spook and out of Dunit A Lil Ruf (by Lil Ruf Peppy).
“They bought an embryo from Ann Salmon [Anderman] and decided to sell him before the [NRHA] Futurity. I didn’t want to lose him, so I called Shannon and Hershel Reid, and they agreed to buy him. It was a blessing, a gift from God, because I knew he would go quick,” Piper said.
Because Patriot and A Vintage Smoke are so young, it made the decision to not run off an easy one.
“They have had such a hard two weeks that I think it’s good just to count your blessings,” Piper said.
When Vanlandingham and A Vintage Smoke won the 2018 NRHA Futurity Championship, owner Diane Mesmer was already eyeing a Triple Crown win. For Vanlandingham, it was déjà vu, in a sense.
“The NRBC was the one that kind of eluded me on Not Ruf At All until his very last year of eligibility. With the group of horses we have, against the group of trainers we have, it’s still not going to be easy to get that done, but I’m glad to have this one out of the way,” Vanlandingham said.
He added, “This is probably the toughest horse show we go to all year, and for us to come in with a 4-year-old — and Nathan’s horse is a 4-year-old as well — and come out on top is a pretty big deal. I’m pretty fired up about how good our horses worked,” Vanlandingham said.
A Vintage Smoke is by A Sparkling Vintage and out of Lady Smoke Peppy (by Mister Dual Pep), and Vanlandingham said he’s a natural show horse.
“He’s a very strong stopper. He came through the gate pretty hard and he swallowed the ground up on that first stop. He turned as good as he can for me tonight,” he said. “He did the same at the [NRHA] Futurity. The best he turned around all week was on finals night, like here.
“As soon as Nathan walked out, I said, ‘We have something to talk about,’ Vanlandingham added of the NRBC. “He said, ‘You’re two thirds of the way to the Triple Crown, and I’d like to leave it and save my horse,’” Vanlandingham recalled.
After a quick visit with Mesmer, the decision was made.
“Diane said if we could save the horses, we would, and we would both leave as champions,” he explained.
Derby Level 3 Open
Two years ago, PS Mega Shine Chic and Dany Tremblay won the NRBC Level 3 Open and tied for the Level 4 Open Reserve Championship. For Tremblay, this year’s win was just as exciting.
“It’s awesome. To do it again with the same horse is awesome. I’m so happy. Last time he was a 4-year-old. I remember it like it was yesterday. He had a great run then, and today, he was so honest,” Tremblay recalled.
The pair also tied for seventh in Level 4, bringing their total earnings to $36,870. The win also came with a custom saddle from Superior Saddlery LLC, an SPH saddle pad, a custom vest from Palmer Performance Horses and product from M3 Products and Back On Track.
Competing as draw three, Tremblay knew he’d have to go for it.
“I tried to do everything I could, and he was so good. He’s a great show horse. He wants to be a champion — he likes pictures,” he said with a laugh.
PS Mega Shine Chic, or “Crush,” is a 6-year-old stallion. By Shine Chic Shine, he is out of Megas Sugar Baby (by Marthas Mega Jac), and is owned by Adh Mor Ranch.
“He’s owned by Brad and Amanda Kelly. This is another great moment for them, for me and for this horse,” Tremblay said. “This horse has a great future ahead of him. He has beautiful babies on the ground now. They’re gorgeous. We can’t wait.”
Derby Level 2 Open
After turning in his non-pro card only months ago, Cade McCutcheon went to the NRBC to compete at his first big reining event as an Open rider. He proved he was ready, qualifying two horses to the Level 4 finals and winning the Level 2 on Shes Got Good Guns with a score of 221. The pair also finished second in the Level 3 finals and tied for ninth in the Level 4.
“It went as good as I could have imagined,” McCutcheon said following the awards ceremony. All together, McCutcheon’s earnings on Shes Got Good Guns totaled $35,198.
McCutcheon also won a custom saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, an SPH saddle pad, a custom vest from Palmer Performance Horses and product from M3 Products, Nutrena and Back On Track.
The NRBC was only the second show for McCutcheon and Shes Got Good Guns, a 6-year-old mare (Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner] x A Bueno Poco Dunit x Hollywood Dun It). She was trained by Duane Latimer, who made the NRHA Futurity finals with her, then shown by Todd Bergen at the NRBC, where she also made the finals.
“She’s been a good mare for everyone, and she just keeps getting better. Tonight I knew she wouldn’t do anything wrong, so I let her stay a little more fresh, and it worked,” McCutcheon said.
Since it is early in McCutcheon’s open career, it made the opportunity to show Shes Got Good Guns even more special.
“Roxanne Koepsell has been a client of ours for as long as I can remember. She’s been awesome. I’m really happy she trusted me with this horse. Not a lot of people would have trusted me with a horse as good as she is this early in my career, but she did, and I’m grateful,” McCutcheon said.
McCutcheon noted Shes Got Good Guns would get some much-needed rest before heading to the NRHA Derby.
Derby Level 1 Open
With a score of 217.5, Magnum Style and Josh Tishman claimed the Level 1 Open Championship, earning $2,968. It was the first time for Tishman to make the finals at the NRBC.
“It’s pretty special to win today. This horse was actually my second of the day to show, and I just wanted to go in and be clean,” he explained. “He has tons of talent, so I knew if I was clean, he would be good.”
The Level 1 title also came with prizes including a custom saddle from Continental Saddlery, an SPH saddle pad, a custom vest from Palmer Performance Horses and product from M3 Products and Back On Track.
Magnum Style, a 6-year-old gelding owned by Mark Hurd, is by Magnum Chic Dream and out of Easy Whiz My Money, who is by Easy Otie Whiz.
“Mark’s daughter Elena rides this horse. They’re from the East Coast, but she goes to TCU, so we have him at Casey Deary’s place so she could show him. She was actually at the college finals in Waco, so she asked me to show him,” Tishman explained.
While the pair was successful, Elena will likely take the reins back over for the NRHA Derby.
“I thank Mark, Elena, Casey and Nicole, and the whole Deary crew,” Tishman added.
Derby Prime Time Open
Dean Brown qualified three horses to the finals and won the Prime Time division on Gunnatrashtheplace with a score of 219. He also won the Development Division on Einsteins Lil Prize during the preliminary round.
Gunnatrashtheplace is a 6-year-old stallion owned by Jeff Levine of Levine Equine Enterprises.
“He’s been a very good horse for me. I’ve made the finals at all the major events with him. I’ve had him since he was a 2-year-old. He’s just a very nice horse,” Brown said.
Gunnatrashtheplace is by Gunnatrashya and out of All Chic N Shiny (by Chocolate Chic Olena).
“He did really good tonight. He showed really well,” Brown said.
There is no other entry fee to enter the Development Division, but to be eligible, a horse must not have won more than $2,000 prior to March 15. The purse is paid out to the highest-advancing horses in the Open preliminaries.
Dean Brown and Einsteins Lil Prize marked a 220 in the preliminary round to win the division, collecting $6,000.
“He’s a newer horse for me. He got a little stargazed by the crowd tonight, but in the prelims he was focused and easy to show and did everything I wanted him to do,” Brown said.
Einsteins Lil Prize, a 4-year-old stallion (Einsteins Revolution x Smart Little Prize x Smart And Trouble), is owned by Robert Santagata.
“I thank both Robert and Jeff for the opportunity,” Brown said.